Frontline maritime lawyers, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba last week gave an insight into the extent of economic loses suffered by Nigeria in the hands of crude oil thieves and insecurity on the nation’s waters, putting the nation’s loss at a whooping of US$17.8bbillion
Agbakoba spoke at the second annual maritime lecture and awards ceremony that was put together by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping in Lagos. He also called for a review of the Nigerian shipping policy
Agbakoba noted that the government has not been able to police the country’s
territorial waters, and this has given room for the large theft of the Nigeria’s crude, even as he disclosed that oil theft takes place between 50 to 100 nautical miles in the nation’s territorial
Acknowledging the nation’s fast aquatic endowment, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) declared: “our water jurisdiction is very large; it starts from the internal waters right up to the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), but what we are not doing effectively is policing our waters”.
“The internal waters we police, but the in the deep sea where all the action takes place, there is nobody, no security, so, what is happening is that our oil is stolen and government knows that, even today, it was reported that there was a consignment of crude found, waiting for ships to come”, he stressed.
He suggested that the only way to stop this massive theft of the nation’s crude is to revamp the country’s maritime institutions, adding that if the internal waters is controlled by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), there should be an agency that patrols the territorial waters for security purposes.
Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) wondered that if the Nigerian Maritime Administration of Safety Agency (NIMASA) is only in charge of safety, then who takes care of the nation’s territorial waters? “The internal waters is controlled and regulated by NIWA, the territorial waters, nobody controls it; the function of NIMASA is maritime safety, but the in other countries you must have maritime security, that is where the coast guard comes in so that when enemies approach your waters, you can easily detect them. “We have no Naval capacity on the water ways, we have no ocean policy, so the water ways are very open.”
Agbakoba also disclosed that a lot of Chinese and Indian fishing trawlers come into the country and cart away prawns, shrimps and other sea products because of non existing security in the territorial waters.
He said the review of the Nigeria’s shipping policy will make it possible to identify the relevant institutions that will govern and superintend the country’s water ways with a view to stopping the continuous theft of Nigeria’s crude.
“Government must have a sense of urgency, a sense of direction and action, that is what governance is all about because what we are saying here has been said long before now”, he added.
The Chamber of Shipping’s 2008 lecture was delivered by the director general of NIMASA, Dr. Ade Dosunmu who took the elite audience that cut across shipping banking and finance sector about Nigeria’s membership of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and what the agency is doing to take more advantages of its category ‘C’ membership of the organisation and the white list status.